With the beginning of summer upon us, it's time to kick back and enjoy time in the sunshine with family and friends. At Philglas & Swiggot we embrace the laid-back approach to summer entertaining: a rustic table in the garden with simple natural linens, vases of fragrant herbs and, in the evening, a cluster of beautiful beeswax candles.
What to serve? If you are rushed for time (or inspiration), a selection of cheese* is an easy yet sophisticated way to start or finish a relaxed gathering with friends. A chunk of crumbly cheddar, a ripe, gooey soft-rind cheese, a wodge of salty Manchego** or a robust blue - all are satisfying on their own or paired with one or two other cheeses, crusty bread, a sliver of quince paste and a pile of oatcakes. Complimenting cheese with wine can be a tricky, so we have put together a few suggestions:
Domaine de L'Ile Porquerolles Rose 2015 + Taleggio La Baita DOP
Isle de Porquerolles is just off the coast of Provence near Toulon, and is a famed French National Park and tourist destination. Domaine d'Ille is the only winery on the island and its vineyards are organically farmed. This is a nearly equal blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Tibouren - its lush, exotic and rounded styling characteristic of a gently powerful Provence rosé.
Pair with a salty Taleggio La Baita from Lombardy to match the maritime dreaminess of the Porquerolles.
Bodegas Rafael Palacios 'Louro' Godello 2015 + Manchego
Rafael Palacios is arguably Spain’s most gifted white winemaker, the result of his singular focus on one grape variety – Godello. He is based in the beautiful region of Valdeorras, deep in the Galician hinterland in northwestern Spain. The vineyards here are at high altitude, planted in sandy soils and often untrellised and low yielding.
Godello has a gorgeous white peach fleshiness, but in Rafael’s hands it also shows citrus undertones, chestnut flowers and his careful elevage in the winery lends his wines the most gorgeous, silky textures.
Pair with a youthful Manchego, where the subtle but dry texture acts as an elegant complement to the perfection of the Louro.
Vicentini Agostino Il Casale Soave 2014 + Ossau-Iraty Istara (sheep's milk cheese)
The Agostini wines are grown on volcanic soils and are consequently delicate, crystalline and fragrant. This is a subtly feminine style of Soave laced with elderflower, ginger and lemony fruit characters. Charming and very refined.
Pair with an Ossau-Iraty Istara from Basque country. The subtle flavours of the Il Casale Soave are an ideal match for the sheep's milk cheese, the characteristics of which begin shyly but build depth with time on the palate.
Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti Pigato Albenga 2014 + Pouligny Saint-Pierre (goat's milk cheese)
A delicious and rare variety from Liguria, this Pigato is floral and aromatic but deceptively virile on the palate with a wonderful oily texture and phenolic grip that lasers through food. The steep terrain and humid maritime climate need hard work in the vineyard to keep low yields and mildew at bay, meaning these wines are often tiny production and most often only locally available.
Pair with a Pouligny Saint-Pierre from the Loire Valley. The liveliness of the Pigato and focused flavour is a good foil for the creamy softness of this natural-rind goat's milk cheese.
Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes + Montgomery Cheddar
The Canary Islands have centuries of winemaking experience thanks to their historic location as a staging post for Atlantic voyages to the New World, but they drifted out of modern winemaking radar – until now. Listan Negro is the grape variety, one known for its workhorse role as a bulk wine provider in South America (where its known as Pais or Criolla) and the USA (where its known as Mission).
Grown on active volcanic slopes this is fragrant, transparent, light-bodied and imbued with the fiery freshness of brimstone. Made from 50+ year old vines in a landscape more akin to the moon, this is an astonishing, interesting and delicious summer red.
Pair boldly with a powerful Montgomery Cheddar.
**Best when squeezed into a suitcase on return from a fabulous holiday in Spain. After vintage in a vineyard in La Mancha, our own Justin Knock once stashed a couple of large Manchego rounds into his suitcase...along with an entire leg of Jamon!